Waltzes and world-class female conductor at GR Symphony March 24-25

JoAnn Falletta

By Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk

When JoAnn Falletta attended Mannes College of Music in the early 1970s, her teachers were reluctant to allow her to major in conducting. They didn’t question her musical abilities as a classical guitarist. They doubted whether the New York native ever would be given a shot at becoming music director of an orchestra. Times changed, and JoAnn Falletta beat the odds.

Today, Falletta, who celebrated her 63rd birthday in February, is music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra (since 1999) and the Virginia Symphony Orchestra since 1991. She’s conducted over 100 orchestras in the world. She attended master classes with Leonard Bernstein (whose 100th birthday is in 2017), and she’s conducting the Grand Rapids Symphony on March 24-25. 

Waltzes by Ravel and Strauss, a cryptic scherzo by Grand Rapids Symphony’s own Alexander Miller, and Italian pianist Fabio Bidini performing Saint-Saens’ exotic, Egyptian Piano Concerto No. 5 all are on the program.
Interesting back story:  One of Falletta’s principal conducting teachers was Russian conductor Semyon Bychkov, who was Music Director of the Grand Rapids Symphony from 1980-85. Bychkov was succeeded in 1986 as Music Director of the Grand Rapids Symphony by Catherine Comet, who helped pave the way for women as music directors. The French-born conductor was the very first woman appointed music director of a regional professional American orchestra.


Tickets start at $18 and are available at the GRS ticket office, weekdays 9 a.m.-5 p.m., at 300 Ottawa Ave. NW, Suite 100, (located across from the Calder Plaza), or by calling 616.454.9451 x 4. (Phone orders will be charged a $2 per ticket service fee, with a $12 maximum.)


Tickets are available at the DeVos Place box office, weekdays 10 a.m.-6 p.m. or on the day of the concert beginning two hours prior to the performance. Tickets also may be purchased online at GRSymphony.org.


Full-time students of any age are able to purchase tickets for only $5 on the night of the concert by enrolling in the GRS Student Passport program. This is a MySymphony360 eligible concert.